Monday, May 07, 2007

Achin' & Bakin' in Macon

Given that this is just year number three of the Soulshiner's World Tour of Art and Carnie Living (read still wet behind the ear at this career) I'm going to make some wrong choices of shows to do. I definitely had my share last season. When you participate in 29 events over a 365-day cycle there are bound to be some stinkers along the way. So many variables must come together to make a successful festival (weather, location, advertising, time of the year, etc.) that it's probably just as likely to have a bad weekend as it is to have a great weekend.

An excellent example occurred almost a year ago this month. At the encouragement of my friend Christy (it's forgiven but not forgotten, sister) and to the discouragement of another friend Courtney (you're not always right - most of the time but not always) I participated in the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association's 5th Annual Spring Festival. This seemed like a no-brainer. I had an open weekend, friends with whom to stay, a show in the aorta of the heart of the South, and the patronage of a lot of gay men living in downtown lofts who collect contemporary art. A perfect show, right? Wrong.

Ultimately the layout of the show led to poor sales for the weekend; not just for me but for just about everyone else participating. Basically the artists were located at the entrance to the event so that potential buyers had to pass by our booths to get to the beer, food, and entertainment. Unfortunately the beer, food, and entertainment were excellent. By the time those potential buyers returned past our booths they were a little too intoxicated to find their wallets or it was after the artists had left for the day.

In the end I made a grand total of $45 in sales. For me it's the lowest earnings ever for a show yet it was $45 more than many other artists took in. It was also the first time I'd ever witnessed an artist packing up and leaving a show early. That is considered the ultimate response to a promoter or event planner to say that "your show sucks" and it's agreed the artist will never return. I gotta say so far that is the most putrid art show I've attended....until this past weekend.

There were so many signs and omens pointing toward disaster that I could've easily been one of those who'd punched a ticket for a ride on the Titanic. While Macon, Georgia has a great deal of historical significance to the Old South it wouldn't be labeled as a "cultural hub." Still I had made decent money in the past at places like Walterboro, South Carolina and Milton, Florida. Macon should be no exception, right?

It's an interesting thing when the mind is faced with certain disaster. Most folks have that innate sense to flee. Yours truly says Pavlov was a quack so let's just hit this nail right on the head even if the nail happens to be a screw.

The Good: for the second time in three weekends I was at a well-known community garden show vendor market. Folks were there to buy. And many of those folks have money to burn to decorate their estates.

The Bad: unlike Augusta's show, vendors other than those with botanical related products were a surprise to patrons. Even my description in the program called my paintings "botanically influenced." That is partially true. I like to paint palm trees. I'm sure we could've found at least one within a 100-square mile area of Macon.

The Good: there was a "vendor preview party" where the sponsors fed us. I even saw Fred Schneider of the B-52s ("Love Shack" & "Rock Lobster" fame) with his significant other. Gay guys with money! I even talked with a really cool gay couple whose historical home was the first listed on the home tour.

The Bad: the vendor party featured chicken tenders from Zaxby's and home-made pimento cheese sandwiches. The gay guys told me how bad the neighborhood was behind their house. In fact their doormat had recently been stolen. Oh yeah, the home tours and garden tours just meant there were more opportunities for the wealthy patrons to be somewhere else than the market.

Ultimately the "market" was as putrid as they come for artists and crafters. The really bad part is that this could really be a good place for an arts and crafts venue if the community actually knew about it. The folks that normally sell plants and gardening tools told me they did okay but they were not happy since the "market" had been moved away from the historic Hay House to the city park which is located in an industrial side of town. Evidently most of the advertising and lure is aimed at the home & garden tours that take place over the same weekend and the only push for vendors happens to take place on Friday night while the locals socialize and get "happy" at the open bar.

Adding to the pain were the long days expected of us. Set-up only in the afternoon Thursday. Open your booth on Friday at 9 in the morning, close at 6, and open again at 7 until 9. Be back by 9AM on Saturday and then close at 6. Open once again at 10 on Sunday and then close at 5 with load-out afterwards.

Needless to say I walked. Three O'clock yesterday afternoon I started to break down. The conditions were awful in regards to heat all weekend (old building with no air flow) which just added to the misery. When I returned to the camper around 5:30 I iced down my calves due to the cramping.

Honestly I never thought I would pack up early for a show. I just didn't think one could be that bad. I learned a new lesson: sometimes you just gotta use that hammer in the right place.

There was some good that came from the weekend. Joan and the kids were there for me at the campground, which I highly recommend if you're ever near the area. Also the residents of Macon are some very good people. Just like most places in the South they are friendly and kind. Although most visitors to my booth looked at me like I had a huge booger on my cheek when they first saw me and my work, they were highly complimentary. Fine art just wasn't expected.

Finally the coolest story of the trip to Macon will be told tomorrow. One of the special things about this blog is the ability to tell y'all about special folks. I was a neighbor to one over the weekend. His name is Larry Smith. I'm excited to tell you about him and his craft. My guess is that Larry is the reason I was led to Macon. I will certainly enjoy doing future shows with Larry and his lovely wife Gail.

The photo is of The Round House which housed some of the vendors including me. There were two doorways and one fan up in the dome that tried to circulate air. The darn place is an exhibition place for the Georgia State Fair. I hope to God livestock is not featured here.


Andre said...

Hey, Bennie,
Macon sure didn't sound like much fun, but it sounds like you've found a silver lining to that dark cloud. Colleen and I are looking forward to you being in the mountains on Saturday. Hopefully things will go well. We can't wait to see what new stuff you have. See you soon.

Peter Togel said...

I did not even hear about this festival before. But this was our weekend off. Next weekend is Roswell. The sad part about it. They forcast rain.....


Vickie said...

Sorry to hear that the show, well, sucked. The building is pretty though, that or either your picture made it look pretty. See ya Thursday!

kimmyk said...

Sorry to hear things didn't go so well. I hope that sort of festival/show doesn't happen again.

Hope your legs are feelin' back to normal. Bummer about this past weekend, man I'm bummed.